COPPERAS COVE — Pam Nealy and her daughter, Jasmine, opened their front door Saturday to greetings of “Merry Christmas,” but also to gifts that will make their holiday celebration possible.
The Nealy family lives in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Hillside Ministries, 2602 S. Farm-to-Market 116, which focused its efforts this holiday season on reaching out to residents on Casa Drive, Sunset Lane and Horseshoe Drive.
Shane White, director of Mission Casa, part of Hillside Ministries, said the outreach is focused on one purpose.
“The real reason we do this is to show the love of God. We want to give them Christmas, but we really want to give them Jesus,” White said. “We want to meet their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs.”
White went door to door through the neighborhood asking residents what they needed. Saturday’s distribution served 20 families and 45 children.
Christine Sweet and Mary Wolverton helped pack up the games, toys, arts and crafts, clothing and Bible tracts in large plastic bags labeled for each family.
“It was awesome to see it all come together and blessed my soul to see people bringing all of the (donations) into the church,” Wolverton said. “There is such a need in this community.”
Fifth-grader Raechel Vinyard, 10, spent some of her own money buying gifts for other children.
“It felt good (to spend my money) because I am helping people get things they need and kids get things they want for Christmas,” Raechel said.
The lists of families’ needs were put inside ornaments and hung on the church Christmas tree.
Within the first week, all of the ornaments were gone.
“We started with 35 kids and the congregation kept asking to do more. So, we added 10 more (children),” Sweet said. “There is such a feeling of gratitude.”
Each family received 30 pounds of food for Christmas dinner, a stocking with personal hygiene items and toys for their children.
“I am feeling very blessed,” Nealy said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. Without (the food and gifts), our Christmas would have been really bad, very limited. Thank you, and Merry Christmas.”